addiction recovery revolving door

What Is Meant by “Revolving Doors” in Addiction Treatment?

Treatment centers can vary in the expectation of stay for those in recovery. We may have heard phrases like “revolving doors” or “frequent fliers” in addiction treatment. What does this mean, and how can you prevent these potential pitfalls for successful treatment from addiction? 

“Revolving doors” refers to treatment centers where people seem to come in-and-out frequently. Generally, facilities that are considered to have revolving doors have short stays or no means of keeping people engaged in long-term recovery. Short-term stays may work for some people. However, many people benefit from long-term stays in sober living from three months to a full year. The habits that we have formed during addiction need to be given an appropriate amount of time to change. Shorter stays of only a few weeks often do not provide a person enough time to form new habits. As people go in and out of short term treatment centers in a rapid cycle of treatment-relapse-treatment-relapse, they may be referred to as “frequent fliers” in recovery. 

Forming New Habits Takes Time

What is a habit? Generally speaking, a habit is a behavior that a person engages in automatically or with very little thought. Patterns can help us minimize how much conscious time we spend on making decisions. When a behavior is completed consistently and over a long period, we can usually engage in conduct somewhat effortlessly or with little mental resistance. When forming healthy habits or making any change, our bodies and minds initially resist. Our minds are wired to get us through our day by spending the least amount of calories possible. Thinking and other brain functions expend calories. When learning new things, we burn calories in our brains to understand the task. Forming new habits requires our minds to burn more calories than usual. We may resist the activity to keep our bodies operating at a consistent caloric rate. Holding ourselves accountable to a consistent schedule will help us override our brain’s resistance to forming healthy habits and change for the better. 

Most people have heard something to the effect of “it takes 21 days to form a new habit.” If this were true, then recovery programs of about three weeks should be sufficient. However, the duration needed to form a new habit is much longer. Most people’s actual time to create a new routine is anywhere from two months to eight months on average! Several factors can influence the time required to form new habits. Some habits may be more comfortable for one person to learn due to their experience. For example, let’s say two people want to learn to play the ukulele. If one person can play the guitar and the other person has never played an instrument in their life, which one will be more likely to learn to play the ukulele faster? Other factors influencing habit formation can be the relative difficulty of the task and the learning environment.

The Importance of Supportive Environments

Information about recovery is everywhere. There are self-help books available, and a plethora of information about addiction recovery is all over the internet. However, if we try to master these skills or learn these new, healthy habits in non-supportive environments, we will be less likely to succeed. Sometimes, our home environments are disruptive or triggering and can make recovery difficult. When we enter a supportive and structured environment for long periods, we improve our recovery chances. Imagine trying to stay sober in a home where people drink daily? A supportive environment with others who are clean and sober can lead to better outcomes for those in recovery. 

Treatment facilities can vary in the length of stay and the structure of support within. When looking for a treatment center or a sober living home, we might increase our chances of success by finding programs with minimum stays of at least three to six months. When we are in environments with others committed to long-term recovery, we can also increase our chances of success. When our peers and companions in sober living are also committed to long-term treatment, we increase our chances of forming bonds and support networks with our recovery peers. To avoid “revolving door” treatment and “frequent fliers,” we may want to look into a long-term sober living home to give ourselves time and support to learn better ways of living.


Long-term treatment facilities can help us avoid going in-and-out of treatment. Sober living homes that offer long-term stays allow us an appropriate amount of time to form new habits and make lifelong changes in our lives. Everyone learns at a different pace depending on the knowledge and skills that they already possess. When we are new to recovery concepts, we may need more extended periods to learn the skills and break our habits. Change, even for the better, will be met with some resistance by our minds. We can make this easier on ourselves by seeking the high quality, long-term treatment that we deserve! Camelback Recovery believes that individuals in recovery need time to make changes and form better habits. Call us today at (602) 466-9880 to get started on your recovery journey! We hope to reduce the number of people engaged in “revolving door” treatment. Our sober living homes can help you or a loved one live their best life!